Casefile Clues

25 March 2014

Uncle Herschel Had His Ph.D. and was a Building Service Worker

Sometimes getting a job with a Ph.D. is not easy. Just look at this 1970 era directory entry for my grandfather's brother, Herschel Neill.

It indicates he was a Ph.D. working in the Building Services Department, seemingly inconsistent. My father always described Uncle Herschel's job at the university as being a "janitor." The phrases "Uncle Herschel" and "Ph.D." were never used in the same sentence.

1970-1971 University of Illinois Staff Directory; digital image on .

Herschel did not have a Ph.D. That reference appears to have been a simple error. The job at the university was one Uncle Herschel had after he had retired from the military. Uncle Herschel was a career military man and did attend college, but only for long enough to obtain a teaching certificate shortly before World War II, at which point he entered the military. The asterisk indicated Herschel was married and that piece of information, along with the name of his wife, is correct.

The 217 Arcadia reference in Rantoul I think is to his address. Unfortunately I got a little crop happy when saving the image and did not include other references to provide enough context. However, I doubt that the University had any type of physical plant service building in Rantoul, given the distance from Champaign. So a little bit of "common sense" and perspective may answer that question.My first awareness of Uncle Herschel was in the early 1970s slightly after this reference was published and, if memory serves, he did live in Rantoul. We visited him there once in the mid-1970s. All I can remember about the house is that it was white. That really narrows it down.

Lessons and Reminders:

  • Anyone source can be wrong--even ones that are published by universities.
  • Keep a list of the abbreviations used in a directory.
  • Copy record entries in context so that clues are not lost.
  • Employment, university and other directories may provide clues that are not expected.
Your relative may not be working the job you think he should.

And sometimes Ph.D.s end up as janitors. You'll just have to use more than one reference to document that claim.